The Dean of Winchester
Scholar and Preacher
The death of the Dean of Winchester, which we regret to record this morning deprives the Church of England of a charming personality, a copious and cultured writer, and a man who combined with an alert interest in current affairs something of that benign detachment from them which characterized dignitaries of the English Church in its peaceful and opulent past.
William Holden Hutton, born on May 24, 1860, came of clerical and academic stock. His father was rector of Gate Burton, in Lincolnshire. In his Oxford days Dr. Hutton used to ask his visitors to observe that his crowded bookshelves represented the collections of three generations of dons—his great uncle. his uncle and himself. He was indeed most thoroughly an Oxford man. He went up to Magdalen, won the Stanhope prize in 1881, took a first in Modern History the following year, and was a Fellow of St. John's College from 1884 to 1923, when he was elected to an honorary Fellowship of the college. Through 20 years, from 1889 until 1909, Hutton was a tutor of St. John's, and no other college could so appropriately have been his home as that which numbers Laud and Juxon among its former presidents. For Hutton was the staunchest of Royalists and a perfervid admirer of the great Caroline divines. It was from them rather than from any later teachers that his own theology and views of Church and State were derived.
Through a long period Hutton held a considerable place in the life both of his college and his University. At various times he was public examiner, senior proctor, select preacher, and, in 1903, Bampton lecturer. At a later period one of his many extraneous interests qualified him for a post of a different kind, and from 1913 to 1920 he revisited Oxford as University Reader in Indian History. Cambridge paid him the tribute of nominating him as select preacher on three occasions, and between 1895 and 1897 he lectured on ecclesiastical history in Trinity College of the younger University. Much of his vacations Hutton spent at Burford, where he had a charming house in which he delighted to entertain his friends. Of Burford and the Cotswolds generally he wrote the praises in more than one of his books.
Until 1911 it was as a scholar and a don rather than as an ecclesiastic that Hutton was known, though he was already in frequent request as a preacher at St. Paul's, the Inns of Court, and elsewhere. The general run of his sermons were careful literary essays, more effective whey they reappeared in print than they had seemed at the moment of delivery. But the times when he was at his best as a preacher were those when he had some historical commemoration as his theme, as at the unveiling of a memorial to his beloved Laud, or to Sir Thomas More, or on Edward the Confessor's Day in the Abbey.
A new chapter in his life opened in 1911, when, at the instance of the Bishop of Peterborough (Dr. Carr Glyn), he became Canon Residentiary of Peterborough and Archdeacon of Northampton. It cannot be said that the appointment was entirely successful. Almost the first requisite for an archdeacon is that he should be in close and sympathetic touch with the parochial clergy of his archdeaconry, and, while Hutton could never fail in sympathy, of parochial work he knew virtually nothing, having never held a benefice. As a Canon of a cathedral he was more happily placed, yet at Peterborough he complained of being cut off from his friends, and, most serious fault of all, the climate began to make him an almost chronic invalid. he did not conceal his desire to be transferred elsewhere. In 1918 he was offered a Worcester canonry by the Crown, but, having inspected the house he would occupy he decided that Worcester as damp and unlikely to suit him as Peterborough.
He had not, however, to wait much longer for a change, since in the following year, on the resignation of Dr. Furneaux, he was offered and accepted the Deanery of Winchester. This meant, among other advantages, that the remainder of his days were to be spent in what is probably the most beautiful Deanery in England. In its spacious rooms and immense corridors he bestowed his many treasures and immense library. he used to declare that he had five separate studies in the house, and did a different kind of work in each. It need hardly be said that the Cathedral and its store of historic associations had a very great attraction for him. He was free, too, from those pressing anxieties about the fabric which nowadays are apt to beset the head of a cathedral establishment. for the great work of underpinning and stabilizing the Winchester Cathedral had been completed in 1912.
The chief drawback to his happiness, and, in some degree, to his usefulness, during his 11 years at Winchester was the state of his health and the corresponding depression of his spirits. As a bachelor, and living alone, he was apt to be worried and put out of action, not merely by illness, which came too often, but by what seemed to be him premonitory symptoms of possible illness. One result was that very seldom could he be induced to visit his friends. Yet there was no diminution of his own charming hospitality. he loved to have guests at the Deanery and beloved all young people. Often, too, it was not hospitality alone that he gave them; they were drawn from all sorts and conditions, and there was scarcely any limit to the generosity with which he would supply substantial help to those whom he thought likely to profit by it. A very great number of people to-day will mourn the passing of one who, with the utmost tact and secrecy, gave them assistance which meant the chance in life they needed.
Something must be added of Hutton's voluminous writings. He had considerable historical knowledge , but a facility, an eagerness to get the book done and begin the next, unfitted him for patient research. Probably his three best works were his Bampton lectures, his Life of Laud, and his volume on the Stuart period in Macmillan's "Church History." Any publisher who applied to Hutton for a monograph on a historical character could be sure of getting a volume that was quite competent, eminently readable, and finished in a record time. The same qualities marked is reviewing, of which he got through an amazing amount. In him The Times loses a valued correspondent. Only last week he caused to be sent to us from his sick bed at Freiburg a telegram expressing his deep distress at the death of his friend Professor C. H. Turner.
It was characteristic of Hutton that he adopted a plan much favoured by Caroline divines, and himself designed and had completed the monumental tablet which will commemerate him in Winchester Cathedral. Written in Latin, it mentions the date of his birth and the chief offices that he held. The date of his death alone has to be added by the stonemason. But the inscription written in the hearts of those who knew him will record also that he was a man of the deepest piety. of the most engaging charm, a staunch friend, and a great gentleman.